March 16th, 2021
Richard Zarzi is a contemporary French artist living in London. Considered one of the top five best pop artists in the world, his work celebrates the modern icons of our time as well as figures from art, science and history. His style is a visual fusion between fashion, celebrity and art.
Before establishing himself as one of the world’s most renowned pop artists, Richard enjoyed a successful career in the fashion industry, and he brings his extensive knowledge and expertise to bear in his creative process. Using his experience of fashion marketing he turns iconic images into unique contemporary art. He has featured celebrated figures including Kate Moss, Madonna, Cara Delevingne, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Mickey Mouse, Bridget Bardot, Charlie Chaplin, Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Salvador Dali, Einstein, Andy Warhol and Napoleon.
Richard uses an unusual array of tools and processes to create his mixed media and fine art and inject sparkle into his message, including painting and projection, resin, mirror and diamond dust. The magical, often dazzling, outcomes highlight the natural characteristics of his subjects, capturing their beauty, humour or charisma and rendering their image timeless through his unique interpretation.
We spoke to Richard about love, art, and the impact lockdown has had on his creative process.
What’s your background and what brought you into art?
I was never taught art. I had a spiritual awakening and never thought I would be an artist before that. I came to London 30 years to ago to learn English. While I was working in a restaurant as a waiter I had a change of consciousness, a change of internal energy, and consequently became a very deep person. I started to connect with the energy around me. I then became unwell and had to return home to the south of France. I met a spirituelle and she started to guide me, to help me feel positive. She bought me a Christmas gift of a box of paints and I started to do abstract art. Slowly I started to paint emotions and realised I had a gift and a message to share through my art.
What training did you have – where did you study?
I started to read books about art, particularly Wassily Kandisky and Jean-Michel Basquiat as I was crazy about these big artists. I wanted to find a guide through their art – I believed they shared something mystical through their work. I was always going to the National Gallery to absorb the energy from their art and then going home to work. It’s as though I was channeling their spirit into my work; connecting with their energy and then channeling it myself into my work.
When you are very deep you don’t need to learn art – you have to keep going and trying, absorbing the energy and spirit from the work of the masters. We all absorb this energy, not just the deep thinkers. If you go to the National Gallery it’s like you’ve had a glass of red wine and your consciousness is higher. Artists are like prophets, channeling deep energy through their work, whether art, music or any other form.
What’s your first memory of art?
My first memory of art from when I was a child is drawing a perspective in geometry – drawing like a crazy. My mother was asking what was I going to do with that? She said you think you can live from that? Study at school and find a proper job!
Who was your favourite artist as a child?
My favourite artist as a child was Wassily Kandidsky, the abstract artist. I was very interested in his work when I was a student. My art teacher at school spoke about him. The only subject I connected with at school was art and the history of art. It’s very strange how some of the things you heard when you were a child stay in your brain and become key to your older self.
Who or what are your current inspirations?
Love, it’s my biggest inspiration. I’m crazy about love. I am in love with love. It is a virtue, a quality. I have studied all the world religions and I love Jesus Christ, I’m not a Christian but I love the virtues of love that he embodies – virtus sanctus spiritus. VIrtus is a quality you have in yourself, the more you have the quality in yourself, in your heart, the closer you are to love and light. I am crazy about love, for me it is the meaning of my life.
I also love Kate Moss – she is my muse. I have created a fine art featuring her, with gold. I love her – I believe she is a god inside. I believe she is special, and an example, she’s not like everyone else.
What is your favourite medium to work in?
Resin, acrylic, diamond dust and oil paint. I have two kinds of art. Affordable pop art and also fine art, made with oils. The fine art is very deep and very expensive.
I did a beautiful artwork that I sold to a private collector, inspired by Da Vinci’s Last Supper with the cover of Vogue. I believe people buy Vogue to learn how to dress, how to look good. It teaches you how to be a better version of yourself.
Here is an artwork – Love – my first sculpture made with diamond dust – two skulls making the shape of a heart, with a symbol in the space between them [above]. It’s inspired by an artwork by Caravaggio [Martha & Mary Magdelene, below], this symbol of light he took and put it in the mirror. The woman is sitting, washing in the mirror and seeing this symbol of light while she is blind.
Who would be your ideal client or collaboration partner?
I would love to work with Anna Wintour. I love Vogue. I used to work in luxury fashion, before I concentrated on art. I used to use the magazine covers to make art, I was the first to put luxury fashion brands in art. It was a new kind of art, and I showed it in galleries in Cannes and St Tropez and Paris and gained a lot of interest and I met a lot of celebrities. So working with Anna would be a dream for me. She is tough and driven and very interesting. It must be a privilege to work with her.
I have lots of celebrities I work with and am inspired by; Kate Moss, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe. I also have celebrities that collect my work, including Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire, Trevor Horn, Freddie Ljungberg, Tyga, Caroline Scheufele, Kate Moss and Karl Lagerfeld. I loved Karl Lagerfeld – the last time I saw him I was at a Chanel party at a festival, and I was one of the first there. Karl came in with a TV crew and I was taking a picture of him, and I was wearing a T-shirt that said “life is not just about work and money” and he loved it.
Everyone connects differently with art, it speaks to people differently.
You’re from Cannes, France and live in London, England – what do you love about each place – and what are the biggest differences? Which is your favourite?
I love London as it is full of light and love. A city of heart. I don’t like France anymore, so I live in London. London is definitely the city of love, not Paris. Paris is great for a romantic weekend away, but it is not a city of love. It is a very negative society, and people only talk to you if they need something. They are suspicious if you smile at them, thinking it’s because you want something, rather than you just being friendly.
I like to have positive people around, I don’t like having negative people. The French are more closed around matters of the heart than people in London, in Britain. There is a different spirit about London and British people as a whole. They are not as materialistic.
I love London, when I go back to the South of France myself inside goes really small. When I get back to Heathrow airport I feel myself grow again. England is another dimension. It is about British culture, not just London. Here you are more open about the heart and your consciousness. To me, British people are more elevated than French people. If you go to Wales or Ireland, people are very aware of themselves; life is tough but people are open and welcoming.
I live in London now, I used to live in between France and London, but now I live here. I am thinking of spending time in Ibiza for a showcase – I have friends there. I would like to go to the USA too – NYC and LA. I have turned the page; France was a previous chapter, I am now moving forward. Life is better for me here.
What challenges have you faced during the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown(s)?
Previously I lived and exhibited in a Knightsbridge Penthouse with view of Harrods! Once the pandemic hit I moved to a smaller place in Kensington where I now live and work. It is a pleasure to work here it has great light and a fabulous view [we were lucky enough to have a virtual tour and can confirm that!].
All the galleries are closed so it has been tough for business. I have an excellent agent and we started to talk to collectors and that has worked well. We are working smarter with a different strategy. I am concentrating on the pop art and fine art with different markets and collectors.
It has been a very creative period for me though, producing so many works. I have never worked so hard and produced so much work in my life! People have been finding happiness through themselves and their hearts during this time as they’ve had to stay at home – finding true love with themselves and the people around them. It’s now been a year and people don’t have a choice other than to love themselves and work on themselves. I have never seen so many people exercising in the park – cycling, running etc. It has been a good time for self-discovery.
What’s next for you?
When lockdown is over I am trying to create a very big exhibition in London to show all my new art work, and then after that, Ibiza!
Richard is represented in the UK by Whitehall Galleries. Follow him on Instagram.
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